Skip Navigation

Virgin Media told to substantiate future download speed claims
Wednesday 25 July 2012 14:16:56 by Andrew Ferguson

Someone complained about claims on the website where they are promoting their up to 60 Mbps broadband service. The webpage contained a table suggesting how long certain tasks would take e.g. "Average download times with up to 60Mb broadband Album 9 secs TV show 54 secs Movie 2.5 mins HD movie 10 mins". The ASA has now published its judgment on this complaint.

Virgin Media in its response said that the HD movie file size was on average 4GB, though they had incorrectly stated a size of 5GB in their footnotes attached to the table. The size difference of 1GB is critical, as the extra usage triggers the fair usage mechanisms that operate between 4pm and 9pm each day. With the 4GB size, and assuming customers could achieve 90% of their numerical maximum speed it would take 9.9 minutes to download the HD file. The speed monitoring of the network suggested actual times would be closer to 9 minutes, i.e. even faster.

"We acknowledged that small print stated '… Traffic Management operates from 4pm to 9pm and 10am to 3pm to ensure a consistent user experience' and included a link to the full details of the traffic management policy. We considered, however, that was not sufficient to make clear that the traffic management policy meant users' numerical maximum speeds might be restricted in such a way that they could not download the material in the average times listed if they breached the 5 GB download limit during peak hours and that the download limit could be breached by downloading more than one HD film. We considered that was a significant factor that affected the advertised service and that it therefore should have been made clear in the body copy of the ad."

Extract from ASA adjudication

The ASA has thus ruled that the advert/table must not appear in its current form again, and appropriate substantiation must be available to support future duration of download speed claims.

This raises the wider question, of how good are speed tests in assessing a connection, particularly in cases where providers manage a connection based on your level of usage, and which sort of users are being monitored as part of the speed testing. If average users that consume perhaps 10 to 20GB of data a month are monitored, any results may be totally useless to those who have embraced a superfast service and use it to constantly watch streamed video, and thus trigger limits two or three times a week.


Posted by AndrueC over 5 years ago
How good are speed testers?


About all you can do with them is monitor them over time. Once you know their usual figures just look for variations.
Posted by m0aur over 5 years ago
Speedtests from different servers are pointless, let alone different testing sites
Posted by AndrueC over 5 years ago
No. Tests from different servers are better. As long as you are fairly consistent in the times and servers you use. By choosing only one server or tester you are limited your tests to a single route. Worse still it's the one route you are least likely to really need to know about unless your hobby really is speed testing your connection.

By choosing multiple testers and servers you are testing a wider range of routes so more likely to get an overall impression of performance that relates to what you might actually be doing with the connection.
Posted by bigluap over 5 years ago
Jack Dinn's Auto Speed Tester, allow you to choose which site to download from, you can even do a test of all the available sites then choose which ones you wan to use for your tests.

With VM the Dutch sites offer the most consistent results, as some sites are too small to even give a result.
Posted by leexgx over 5 years ago
problem with speed tests once you get above 20mb they can be unreliable, you should be using BQM monitor so you can monitor the latency as that can be an indicating congestion (or packet loss as that's more killer issue with virgin media like) or grate example of congestion (4pm to midnight tends to be an issue around where i am)
Posted by AndrueC over 5 years ago
Yeah, BQM is useful. It's unfortunate that TBB speed tester seems broken for me since moving to FTTC. That daft 8Mb/s upload is something nothing else reports. I've even had a friend download from my FTP server and proved (using a manual stopwatch just to be sure, ffs) that my upload is at least 12Mb/s (the limit of his downstream).
Posted by Mr_Fluffy over 5 years ago
The TBB speed tester hasn't worked for me whenever I've tried using it in the past several years or so. Other testers seem to work okay and the TBB one used to many moons ago, (This has been on several different computers running whatever was the latest Ubuntu linux at the time -- more than once I have tried troubleshooting the problem but never succeeded)
Posted by Mr_Fluffy over 5 years ago
Correction: The Flash test works but the other one doesn't -- I've just tried!

Even so it indicates a download speed a good 2-3Mb/s less than most Linux upgrade downloads achieve on our connection
Posted by brass4thing over 5 years ago
This sort of speed test will not tell you what you need to know, which is how long it is likely to take to download actual files. To find out the *effective* download speed of your connection, download some real files and see how long it takes. A page on this site has dummy files of various sizes to download, with an indication of how long it should take at different advertised speeds. Typically, the time indicated is twice that advertised by VM, and I find that it takes about twice as long as that. The effective download speed is between 10% and 35% of that advertised by VM.
Posted by cpomd over 5 years ago
recently upgraded tp VM 30MB and have always used for my speed tests (it measures the whole Internet)highest to date 10MB whilst Speedtest which measures a fibre cable from manchester to manchester has consistently measured 30MB?
You must be logged in to post comments. Click here to login.